One year is closing and another begins. As we contemplate life, we remember how times of celebration enrich our lives while times of sorrow and hardship challenge us. In all seasons of life, however, we are meant to grow in our understanding of the Lord and in our intimacy with Him. We must make it a priority to grow in our faith and allow God to open our eyes to see the things of His Kingdom. It is time for increasing our pursuit of the Holy Spirit and His anointing to help us grow in the gifts and fruit from God's Kingdom.
On Saturday morning I was sitting on my sofa looking out the glass doors into the clear blue sky. A pilot was having a fun time skywriting. He went back and forth across the sky laying down lines of white smoke. I noticed that when a line was first deposited it was a narrow streak. As time went on the line expanded and filled up more of the sky. It is fascinating to me that the "writing" is composed of a special combination of oils. The anointing oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and He is the one we must count on to help us expand our vision.
My desire for the new year is for an expansion of my spiritual insight so that I may be more like Jesus. He is described by the prophet Isaiah: "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from His roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him--the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding; the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord--and He will delight in the fear of the Lord." (Isaiah 11:1-3) He was anointed to bring the Kingdom of God to us and to help us grow in faith and sight. When He went to heaven, He sent us the Holy Spirit as our Helper.
It is as we grow in faith that our spiritual eyes will be opened. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says that we must "live by faith, not by sight." Here is the truth: God has already prepared gifts and experiences for us that are meant to grow fruit in our lives. "As it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him'--but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God...We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." (1 Corinthians 2:9-12)
We are at the beginning of the year 2019. Nine is the number of gestation or pregnancy and of fruitfulness. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 tells us that there are nine gifts of the Spirit while Galatians 5:22 lists the nine fruits of the Spirit. It is God's desire that we grow in faith so that we will have spiritual eyes. In Galilee, Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He said, “The time has come...The Kingdom of God is near..." (Mark 1:15) It is time for us to open our eyes to the extraordinary aspects of the Kingdom of God. He told His disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last..." (John 15:16)
Grow in faith by stepping out of the earthly realm and into the Kingdom real. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to cause us to accomplish this. It is time for us to take risks which means exercising courage. We are made to live in the atmosphere of the impossible, because our home is in the Kingdom of Heaven. Bestselling author Cindy Trimm wrote an article for "Charisma Magazine" in September. Here is her encouragement to all of us--one we should grasp for the year 2019. "Most people never break free from the status quo because they are unwilling to risk going out on a limb. But the end of the branch is where the sweetest fruit lies." Amen!
When the Israelites arrived in the Desert of Sin (meaning clay or mire) they grumbled against Moses and Aaron because they did not have the food they were used to in Egypt. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people will go out each day and gather enough for that day.'" (Exodus 16:4) Each morning, the bread appeared exactly the way God described. "...In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, 'What is it?' (or "Man hu") For they did not know what it was." (Exodus 16:13-15)
What the children of Israel called manna was to be remembered for generations to come. The Lord commanded, "Take an omer of manna and keep it for generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt." (Exodus 16:32) The Israelites were supplied with manna for 40 years, the amount of time they were in the wilderness. Once they reached the Promised Land, the daily manna stopped.
Jesus would talk about the manna after he multiplied bread to feed the five thousand. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:48-51)
Father God confirmed what He was doing in bring us Living Bread from heaven. Every Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, meaning "Jehovah (eternal one) is salvation." Do not think it is a coincident that Jesus came from heaven and was born in Bethlehem, meaning "house of bread." After His birth, Jesus was placed in a manger, a box or crib to hold fodder. Even the shepherds were told by the angels, "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:12)
There are two kinds of bread that come from heaven. One (manna) is meant to sustain physical bodies for a day on earth. It had to be collected daily. The other bread (Jesus) has life in it that comes to nourish us for eternity. The concept that Jesus introduced, that His flesh is the Living Bread, was not easy for the disciples to understand. It is not easy for us to understand! However, we must receive this truth. By placing our finite understandings on the God of the Universe we miss out on the power of His truths.
This is the season of miracles—ones that are beyond our comprehension—where anything can happen. Two women conceived: One beyond childbearing years and the other a virgin. A priest was struck dumb and could not speak until his son was named. Angels appeared to shepherds in a field and directed them to the place where the Son of God lay in a manger. Wise men took a very long journey to Bethlehem, being led by a star, so that they could worship the Christ child. This Christ child is our "daily Bread" that promises us eternal life if we believe in Him. Instead of filing ourselves with the world's bread, we must fill ourselves with the Living Bread--His life, His Word and His promises.
What does it mean to go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah as was prophesied about John the Baptist? John's father, Zechariah, declared, "And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins." (Luke 1:76-77 - NLT) He certainly had an important call on his life! I think that every Believer has the same call—that we should live our lives to "prepare the way for the Lord," in the spirit of Elijah.
We can read about Elijah's life in the Bible in 1 Kings 17 through 2 Kings 2. Here are some of the highlights of his life:
The prophet Malachi declared, "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers..." (Malachi 4:5-6) The angel of the Lord repeated this prophecy to Zechariah to let him know that his son John would fulfill it. (Luke 1:15-17) And John's life is seen as a standard for all of us to follow. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it." (Matthew 11:11-12)
We are in the season of celebrating the break-in of heaven to earth. Jesus came to earth as a seed in his mother's womb. As that seed grew, John the Baptist would prepare the way for Him. Time would show that Jesus is the Lord of the breakthrough. He demonstrated the power and love of His Father in heaven. Many around us are celebrating Christmas but may not comprehend its true meaning. We are those who can and should prepare the way of the Lord through a ministry of power and love that fosters reconciliation between family members and friends. The anointing is upon us: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19) These promises from the Word of God may challenge us, but let us not bring the truth of the Word down to our level of experience. Ask Holy Spirit to bring our experience up to the truth of the Word. Let's claim these promises over our lives and launch out into a lifestyle to "prepare the way of the Lord."
Luke begins his book in the Bible with the story of two women. Both were upright before God and were chosen by Him to birth a child who would have eternal impact on the world. The angel Gabriel visited the earth to announce the future to them. Because of the world's standards, one would have disgrace/reproach removed from her life; the other would have disgrace placed upon her. The first woman, Elizabeth, was well advanced in years, with no children, because she was barren. When her husband, the priest Zechariah, was selected to enter the temple to burn incense before the Lord, he was met by the angel Gabriel at the altar. Gabriel had miraculous news: "Do not be afraid Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John...He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth...And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of righteousness—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:13-17) Indeed, Elizabeth became pregnant and was overwhelmed with the goodness of God in choosing her. "In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace (reproach) among the people." (Luke 1:25)
The other woman chosen by God was just beginning her life. Mary, a virgin, was engaged to be married to Joseph, a descendant of David. Gabriel greeted Mary: "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:29-33) Of course, Mary was completely floored by the announcement; she was a virgin! The angel explained that Mary would be overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit for her to carry the Son of God. She was also told that her cousin Elizabeth was six months pregnant and that "nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37) Mary's response was an indication of her degree of faith. "I am the Lord's servant...May it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38)
Can you imagine what must have been going on in Mary's head? “How am I going to explain this to Joseph and my family and friends?" And yet, both Mary and Elizabeth knew and believed the word of the Lord. "It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) Mary went directly to Elizabeth's home in the Judean hill country where Elizabeth affirmed her: "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:45)
Elizabeth and Mary spent about three months together. We can only guess how they spoke to one another concerning the future. My guess is that Elizabeth was a great comfort to Mary. She spent years walking in the reproach of her barrenness and knew what it was like to feel the rejection of her community. Mary was about to live in reproach (probably to a greater degree than her cousin) because of her pregnancy before marriage. I am sure that Elizabeth was a voice of experience and compassion who told Mary that God is faithful in the midst of difficulties. Mary chose to focus on the goodness of God and would not allow anything to steal her joy. "My soul glorifies (magnifies) the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me. —Holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation." (Luke 1:46-50)
Jesus became familiar with the reproach that Mary experienced and warned us that we would also pay a price for carrying His presence. 1 Timothy 4:10 tells us, "...We both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God..." (KJV) Are we willing to glorify the Lord despite persecution? Mary paid a high price for carrying the seed of God. Yet, she is a shining example of one who dedicated her life to the will of God and expressed overwhelming joy along the way. Are we willing to do likewise?
The Cape Florida Lighthouse at Key Biscayne, Florida has been preserved along with a house that the light keeper and his family would have lived in. The job description for the "Keeper of the Light" is on the wall of the house. As I read about the duties of the light keepers, I was reminded that they are like the duties of the priests in the temple and the responsibility of those of us who carry the light of God within us.
For the Light Keeper, self-sacrifice, loyalty and dedication to the care of the light and the property around it were of utmost importance. Here are some of the duties of the Keeper of the Light:
Joan E. Mathias